The Lakers made the trip down to Anaheim for their fourth preseason game of the year, and their second consecutive exhibition game against the Utah Jazz. Los Angeles was looking to finally get in the win column after three consecutive losses to start the preseason, but that would be a little tougher than they may have anticipated when they learned that Mike Brown had decided to rest Pau Gasol for the game.
Still, the remaining Lakers took the floor at the Honda Center looking to finally earn their first preseason win, and get a little revenge for the loss Utah handed them on Saturday night.
Without Gasol on the floor the Lakers inserted Antawn Jamison into the starting lineup. Along with Nash, Bryant, World Peace and Sacre, Jamison made up the starting five for an L.A. team that had struggled to this point in the preseason. At the onset of the game neither team was finding much offensive success, and the first basket wasn’t scored until nearly three minutes into the game. The ugly start proved to be a consistent theme throughout the rest of the first half for LA, as the Jazz quickly began to build a lead.
Mike Brown kept the starters in for the majority of the first quarter, but Utah still managed to build a double-digit lead by the end of the period. Part of this was due to the poor play of Steve Nash, who at one point turned the ball over on three consecutive possessions. While it’s far too soon to panic, it certainly wasn’t an encouraging sign for the fans in Anaheim who were hoping to see the Lakers’ new point guard be a little more, well, on point. At the end of the first quarter the Jazz had built an 11-point lead, 26-15.
Things went from bad to worse for the Lakers in the second period. Brown inserted some of his bench players and saw the team quickly fall behind even further. Using a lineup of Reeves Nelson, Ronnie Aguilar. Steve Blake, Jodie Meeks and Devin Ebanks, the team went on a long offensive drought where nothing was working offensively. The team was turning the ball over, shots were being missed, and mistakes were being made on the both ends of the floor. Utah took advantage of the miscues and built a 20-point lead midway through the quarter, and coasted into halftime.
While the main complaints have been about the team bench so far in the preseason, it isn’t exactly fair to judge this group based on what was out on the floor in the second quarter. Many of the players being used as bench players for this current Lakers squad won’t be on the final roster once the regular season starts, and are far from NBA-caliber players. Still, it was disheartening to watch the Lakers get beat in every facet of the game, especially against a largely inferior Jazz team. At halftime, Utah led the Lakers 52-32.
Heading into the second half things were already out of reach for the Lakers. They were down by 20 but weren’t expected to expend too much energy attempting to come back in the second half. Steve Nash spent the entire third quarter on the bench, and with Gasol and Howard already out there wasn’t a lot of firepower to help bring the Lakers back. Well besides Kobe. While things never got close in the third quarter, Kobe put on a show that the fans in Anaheim (no matter how few) will share for a long time.
Bryant took over the scoring load for Los Angeles in the third period, practically putting the team on his back and carrying them offensively. Bryant connected on shot after shot, ultimately tallying up 23 points in the third quarter alone. What was more impressive was that Bryant scored 23 of the team’s 24 third quarter points on his own. Unfortunately for the team they weren’t any closer to actually catching the Jazz on the scoreboard, but the old fashioned Kobe barrage was certainly something worthy of excitement for the fans who made the trip to Orange County.
The fourth and final period was owned by the bench players, as Kobe did more than his share of work in the third. Utah entered the final period with a near 30-point lead, so it was nothing but a formality and running out the final 12 minutes of play. As is the case with many preseason games, there wasn’t a whole lot to take from this loss. It didn’t help that things were especially ugly and none of the reserve players played particularly well. The final roster spots are still up for grabs, as nobody (other than maybe Sacre) has really done a great job of cementing themselves in that spot.
Over the course of the final period the Lakers threw a variety of bench players out onto the floor in an effort to establish a little momentum, but nothing ever really materialized. Jodie Meeks hit a three-pointer, Andrew Goudelock and Darius Morris made an appearance, but otherwise not much else materialized for Los Angeles. In the end the Jazz put away the Lakers in another lopsided game, 114-80.